Rain Barrel Ready

My 2011 rain water is running out.  I use 3-5 gallons weekly to water houseplants in the winter and I was getting down to a couple of months left.My husband is glad to not have dozens of milk jugs under foot in the shop/laundry room.  He uncovered and hooked up one rain barrel for the 2012 season! And it filled overnight! 65 gallons from a light rain that fell most of the night!  I think Spring arrived early!

The screen looks intact, the flexible downspout and the overflow hose survived the not so cold winter temperatures. So it doesn’t look like I will have to replace anything this year, except the plastic tie we use to keep the lid from blowing away on gusty days.  Right now it’s being weighted down with a couple of chunks of firewood. We will get to the other barrels on the back side of the house soon.

I appreciate being able to  save water for gardening and car washing so I am not using drinking water from the tap for those things. It also keeps 215 gallons from rushing down the hill during any given downpour! It doesn’t seem like much in the bigger scheme but it does help slow the quantity of water that ends up in the watershed. We are collecting off the roof, but there are strategies to slow down the water that comes off of other hard surfaces including rain gardens, swales, french drains and native plantings.

Ever since the Rainscaping class I took last fall, we keep thinking about a cistern style rain water collection system.  It would be nice to have more capacity than the rain barrels and include a first flush mechanism to reduce contaminants. I will keep you posted.  That kind of project involves more construction knowledge than I currently have. 

Will you collect rain water this year? How will you use it?  If you want some ideas or to find a certified rainscaper in your area contact http://www.rainscapingiowa.org/

Kristi Cooper
ISU Extension and Outreach Linn County Family Life Specialist



If you're interested in setting up your own rain barrel, check out this handout with some tips about how to construct a rain barrel from Linn County Master Gardeners Becki Lynch and Dianne Johnson. 


Kristi Cooper said that there are some keys to finding a good rain barrel... use opaque blue or black (not clear or white) food grade barrels.  You could check with your local grocery stores or ask a local restaurant if they have one they are getting rid of. Be careful not to purchase one that was used to store chemicals like from a car wash businesses.  The chemicals get into barrels like that, and it is difficult to get them clean enough.

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